Dolphins vs. Patriots 2012 game preview: New England looks for playoff bye

USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots face the Dolphins with a potential first-round bye on the line.

The Patriots host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, as New England hopes to make its path to the Super Bowl a little easier. The Pats are still in contention for the No. 1 seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Dolphins and Patriots last met back in Week 13, and Miami gave New England all it could handle, limiting Tom Brady to a pedestrian 238 yards passing. The Patriots were able to prevail with a 23-16 win on the road, as they held the Dolphins to just one touchdown in four trips inside the 30-yard line.

Meet the Patriots

New England comes into Week 17 with an 11-4 record following a surprisingly close win over the Jacksonville Jaguars last time out. The Patriots have struggled on the road recently against inferior teams, which makes home-field advantage in the playoffs even more important.

With losses by Denver and Houston in Week 17, the Patriots can clinch home-field advantage by defeating the Dolphins. They can earn a first-round bye with a win and a loss by either the Broncos or Texans. as New England holds the head-to-head advantage against both.

Brady is having another big year for the Pats, having tossed for 4,543 yards and 32 touchdowns. Wes Welker continues to produce, catching 110 passes for 1,260 yards and five scores.

Meet the Dolphins

Miami was surprisingly in playoff contention until Week 16 and has a chance to finish with a .500 record by upsetting the Patriots on Sunday. The Dolphins have won two straight games after losing five of six.

Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has started all 15 of Miami's games this season. He has completed 58 percent of his passes for 3,059 yards, 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Running back Reggie Bush is just 40 yards away from his second straight 1,000-yard season.

Local Takes: Patriots

Alec Shane from Patriots blog Pats Pulpit is hopeful that New England will get some help on Sunday:

And while the odds of both Houston and Denver harnessing their inner Alec Shane and bellyflopping into a pool full of young kids are slim, there is definitely a possibility that at least one team will drop a game.

Local Takes: Dolphins

With Miami out of playoff contention, Kevin Nogle of Dolphins blog The Phinsider has turned his attention to the team's potential new logo:

My personal views on it, if this is to become the Dolphins logo moving forward, is that I like it. It is exactly what the Dolphins were looking to get - a modern/retro look that still ties into the history of the team. I would change a couple of things, like the tail should be down as if the dolphin is breaching the water, rather than up as if it is swimming in front of the sun, and I'm not sure I like the navy line coming off the fin, but overall, it's well done. I really like the sun, with the semi-tie back to the old version of the sun with all of the rays coming off of it.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Pats Pulpit and The Phinsider, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

Pats Pulpit

Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald

The Phinsider

Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel

Prediction

Joel Thorman doesn't think the Dolphins have a chance in his Week 17 NFL picks:

Miami hasn't beaten New England since 2009. That's not changing this week.

The pick: 37-20, Patriots

Odds

The Patriots are favored by between 10 and 11 points, according to Odds Shark.

Next Week

The Patriots could be playing a home playoff game, or they could be resting with a bye week. The Dolphins will head into the offseason.

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